A Port Alberni five-pin bowler will be the oldest athlete competing at the Special Olympics nationals this month.
At 74 years old, Port Alberni’s Maurice Bernier has been involved in Special Olympics for the past 25 years. From Feb. 25 to 29, he will be headed to Thunder Bay with his bowling team to compete in the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games.
His Special Olympics Team BC bowling coach Debbie McCooey said that she can’t believe his age.
“He certainly does not act or appear to be 74 years old,” said McCooey in a press release. “He’s still pretty active and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down.”
Bernier credits his active lifestyle and “all the other young people” at Special Olympics for keeping him young at heart.
McCooey calls Bernier something of a father figure to his teammates.
“The older, more experienced athletes tend to take the younger ones under their wing and just give them a hand, make them feel included and welcome – and Maurice is very much that way,” said McCooey.
“He’s got a wonderful personality. He’s super social and very encouraging to all the other athletes on the team.”
McCooey often records Bernier at practice and uses the video to coach proper technique.
“He’s got a very good throw, a very smooth ball … he’s extending his arm like he’s supposed to, his technique is really good,” she said.
Bernier is proud to be a role model.
“If (other athletes) need help, I’m ready to help them all the time,” he said.
Thunder Bay will be his third National Games competition, so Bernier has also been offering advice to teammates competing at that level for the first time.
“When they tell me they’re nervous, I tell them, ‘Just pretend like you’re in Port Alberni, and bowl like you do there … you’ll do great,’” he said.
“I was scared and worried before when I started, I got over it and I bowled a lot better than I thought, so why worry? Just go and have fun.”
Bernier, of course, practices what he preaches: his goal for Thunder Bay is to simply do his best – and keep up with the younger athletes “and beat them if I can,” he added with a laugh.